Retired pilot Bryon Edgington on the joy of riding alone
I had the opportunity to fly for airlines many years ago, but decided to stay with helicopters, and I’m glad I did. Rotary wing aviation was perfect for me, and I will never regret it. On the one hand, virtually all commercial helicopter flights are single-pilot.
Why I like to fly solo
I liked flying solo because I was the one making the decisions. It was up to me to accept a mission or not. Everything about me to operate the machine, interpret the weather, manipulate the controls and manage the aircraft systems and fuel, etc. When something went wrong it was my responsibility to handle it properly. It was up to me to fly the machine in the sky, keep my passengers and aircraft owners happy, and bring it all back at the end of the day in one piece. I liked this sense of agency.
Helicopters generally have more moving parts than airplanes, so there is more to do upstream (some say more to be wrong). Helicopter operators, on the whole, work with a smaller profit margin, so a helicopter malfunction might be a bigger potential problem for your boss, so the pressure on you to fly a marginal machine might also be. higher.
As for engine malfunctions, helicopters have the advantage of a maneuver called autorotation, which allows a smooth and controlled landing in the event of a failure. So if things get eerily calm and your fuel mileage drops to zero, as a helicopter pilot you’ll have better options than a fixed-wing pilot as to where to land the machine.
The negative aspects of commercial helicopter operations are not numerous, nor expensive, but they are noteworthy. For one thing, as a rotary airfoil pilot you will usually be working at the end of the road, especially when you are a beginner. The advantage of taking on such jobs is that they often give you more real-world experience than others, for richer and more memorable flights.